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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Being prepared for Thanksgiving

It's that time of year again. I have been complaining about the Christmas decorations in the stores and Christmas Carols on the radio and it wasn't even Halloween yet. Then Halloween happened and suddenly there were six Fridays left until Christmas. How can that be? I had dreams of having all of my Christmas presents bought and wrapped by Thanksgiving and then I woke up this morning and realized that Thanksgiving was two weeks from tomorrow. Not only have I not bought one gift, not wrapped one present but I haven't even researched, planned and prepared what I am going to make for Thanksgiving. We travel to Vermont to my parents house for Thanksgiving so I do have to plan. We recently bought a new house and are doing some renovations so we are in a rental for now so I guess in some ways I have an excuse. But, I had planned on being so organized and prepare everything I could ahead of time...

I thought about all the work we have to do on the house and all of my kitchen being in storage and I became really overwhelmed. But I caught myself and learned from the reading I have been doing on Mindfulness (check out our Facebook page Grand Gables Realty Group, Inc.and be sure to LIKE our page) Monday is Mindful Monday and it's a great way to start off the week on the right foot! Anyway I digress. I decided instead of panicking and making it bigger than it really was I took a deep breath, pared down my list of dishes and tablescapes and started to look into what I could do ahead of time.

Leave it to the New York Times to come up with a foolproof way for busy people to make it through Thanksgiving.

What Can I Prepare Before the Actual Day of Thanksgiving?

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
What can I prepare before the actual day of Thanksgiving …. Usually, I make everything the same day, and it is exhausting. Thanks. — LS, Brooklyn
If there is one thing I’ve learned from my husband’s marathon running, it’s that strength and stamina alone won’t necessarily get you to the finish line. The difference between a good run and an excruciating ordeal is solid planning.
help line
Thanksgiving, that marathon of meals, requires the same kind of advance preparation. The more you can do ahead, the happier you’ll be on the big day. You should even be able to sit down with your family and relax after the race to the dinner table is done.
Here’s how to spend the next week, so next Thursday is as enjoyable for you, the cook, as it is for your guests.
Melissa Clark is the author of the column “A Good Appetite” and a number of cookbooks, including the recent “In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite.” She offers more recipes on her blog.
SEVEN DAYS AHEAD (THURSDAY!)If you haven’t ordered a turkey yet, do it now.
SIX DAYS AHEAD Start your stuffing. Cube up some nice, crusty bread, spread it out on a baking sheet, and let it dry out for a few days. The drier the bread, the better able it is to absorb all the good seasonings you will be putting in the stuffing. You can also make your cranberry sauce this far ahead (the cooked kind with loads of sugar, that is). If your family recipe is a raw relish, wait until three days ahead.
FIVE DAYS AHEAD Pie dough time. Toss together what you need, wrap it up and stick it in the fridge. If you’ve made the dough far ahead and frozen it, now is a good time to take it out of the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge until you are ready to bake (ideally on Thanksgiving morning, but the day before will do, see below). Start buying groceries and produce: sweet potatoes, potatoes, green beans, onions, kale, lettuces, herbs. Stock up now, so you won’t have to make too many last-minute trips to the supermarket later.
FOUR DAYS AHEAD The Sunday before the big day, and a golden time for getting things done. Are you making some green bean casserole type dish? Blanch your green beans today. If you’re not planning on a casserole, blanch some green beans anyway, then quickly sauté them on Thanksgiving with garlic, sesame oil, chile sauce and soy sauce for a vaguely Asian-inspired dish. Or, sauté the beans with lemon zest, lemon thyme and hazelnuts; or bacon, sage and shallots. Make the gravy. You don’t have to wait for the turkey drippings. Just sauté flour and butter into a light brown roux, then whisk in strong turkey or chicken stock. It will keep in the fridge until you need it. Just before serving, pour in all those glorious golden drippings from the roasting pan. If your turkey is frozen, start defrosting it in the refrigerator. Allow a full day for every 5 pounds of fowl (a 20-pounder will need a full four days). If caramelized onions are on the menu for any purpose (to top the green beans or the potatoes, for example), make them on this day.
THREE DAYS AHEAD Make your vinaigrette for the salad, if you’re serving one, and prepare the greens. Wash them and dry them well, then wrap them loosely in paper towels, place in a plastic bag and put them in the crisper. They will be fresh and springy on Thanksgiving Day. If you don’t wash the greens ahead, you know you’d never get that salad on the table. If you’re serving butternut squash, peel, seed and cube it. Then on Thanksgiving, all you have to do is toss it with olive oil, salt and maybe some garam masala (or maple syrup and cayenne if you like) and roast at 425 degrees until golden and caramelized. You can also peel and cut up carrots, rutabaga and beets, and separate cauliflower florets.
TWO DAYS AHEAD Getting anxious? Now the fun part begins: the cooking. You can’t make fluffy mashed potatoes this far ahead, but you can make a mashed potato casserole, or put together your sweet potato casserole. Cool them, chill them, then bake them just before serving. Make your stuffing with your dried-out bread. You can make the filling for your pumpkin and pecan pies. Ditto for an apple pie if your recipe calls for cooking the apples first (raw apples won’t keep). Store everything in the fridge — if you still have any fridge space, that is! If you don’t, fill a cooler with ice packs and use it as a secondary fridge. If you plan to brine the turkey, do so on this day. Make sure to keep your brined turkey cold; it needs to be kept at under 40 degrees or bacteria could grow. Another option is simply rubbing salt, pepper and seasonings (herbs, juniper, spices, chili powder) all over the turkey and letting it sit uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours.
ONE DAY BEFORE Bake your pies, if it will stress you out to bake them Thanksgiving morning. Bake them as late in the day as possible. With pie, it’s the fresher, the better. If you like having warm biscuits (say, cornmeal sage) straight out of the oven with your turkey, make the dough for them today. They will keep in the fridge overnight, then bake while the turkey is resting. If you haven’t done anything from the list above, do it now. You’ll finish your cooking marathon with plenty of energy to begin the next one: eating, of course.

Being from the South Shore of Boston (fairly close to Plymouth) I feel compelled to post a picture of the Pilgrims and their first Thanksgiving!

The Pilgrims’ autumn celebration in 1621 was the first American Thanksgiving.
The Pilgrims were hardly the first people to stop and thank their creator for a bountiful harvest. Native Americans had a long tradition of thanksgiving celebrations. The Algonquian people, for example, participated in regular ceremonies linked to the crop cycle, while the nearby Wampanoag annually celebrated the first harvest of the new season with a “strawberry thanksgiving.”
Europeans who arrived in North America before the Pilgrims also engaged in such observances. There is evidence of a thanksgiving service held in 1564 near present-day Jacksonville, Fla., by French Huguenots . The next year, Spanish documents refer to a thanksgiving Mass celebrated at St. Augustine by conquistadores (who would soon slaughter the Huguenots). Texas historians say Spanish colonists celebrated thanksgiving with the Manso Indians near present-day El Paso in 1598, not early enough to beat out Florida but still a generation before the celebration in Massachusetts. Among English settlers, there is evidence of a thanksgiving celebration in 1607 at a short-lived colony on the coast of Maine, and of two others among Virginia colonists in 1610 and 1619.
More important, the 1621 celebration wasn’t a thanksgiving at all from the Pilgrims’ perspective. As they understood it, a thanksgiving was a solemn observance, a “holy day” devoted to worship in acknowledgment of a specific, extraordinary blessing from the Lord.

The Washington Post - November 22, 2013
read this article in full

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